Instant Messaging Rivals Blast AOL

BOSTON (07/21/2000) - America Online Inc. is hiding behind unjustified security and privacy concerns to avoid having to make its AOL Instant Messenger service compatible with competing programs, rival companies charged Friday.

The white paper, signed by several companies developing or marketing instant messaging services, including Microsoft Corp. and CMGI Inc.'s subsidiary Tribal Voice Inc., charges AOL with "inappropriately (using) security and privacy concerns as justification for blocking open communication."

AOL has come under fire in recent months for blocking users from other providers of instant messaging services from exchanging messages with users of its AOL Instant Messenger service. AOL has cited a fear of compromising its users' security and privacy to justify its actions.

But critics don't buy AOL's claims.

AOL "has failed to demonstrate how interoperability impedes either of these issues," said Matt Fleury, a spokesman for Tribal Voice, adding that AOL hasn't worked effectively with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) working group created to help build an open standard for instant message traffic. "AOL is not an active participant, it's participation has been nil," he said. "It has been starkly devoid of a timetable."

The white paper released on Friday responds to filings AOL made recently to the IETF and to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission about the company's policy on instant messaging. In June, the FCC asked AOL for information about its instant messaging operation. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also been looking at AOL's instant messaging practices. [See "FTC Asks AOL for Data on Instant Messaging," June 15.]AOL's Instant Messenger holds a commanding lead in the instant messaging market. Company spokespeople were unavailable for comment at press time.

AOL, in Dulles, Virginia, can be reached at +1-703-448-8700 or at

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More about America OnlineAOLCMGIFCCFederal Communications CommissionFederal Trade CommissionFTCIETFInternet Engineering Task ForceMessengerMicrosoftTribal Voice

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